The Cotton Suit

March marks the beginning of the arguably favourite in-between season for those passionate about their clothes and dressing-up in general, one that allows multiple layering and mixing various winter and summer pieces together. The transitional wardrobe is on - and together with it, the often-forgot cotton suit is out!
Interestingly, a cotton suit is a thing that I have, you might say, sentimental relationship with, even though I have owned one only - not counting some short-lived, poor quality fast fashion stuff - for less than a year now. It's a strange sentiment, built not on having a thing, but on thinking about it for an exceptionally long time, almost a decade.
It's not like this piece has been staying on the top of my wish list all those years - honestly, it fell off it quite a few times along the way. In the end, however, it came back, I’ve managed to implement the plan and now I can tell you a bit about it, although I warn you - it is also a story about how the context of clothes can change while the thing still could remain relevant.
Author: Mateusz Tryjanowski
Photo: Maciej Gajdur
Models: Maksym Zalewski, Łukasz Lenczyk

First, I became interested in the topic sometime around 2013, 2014 maybe, although (and I will sound like an old guy right now) the times were different back then. Different things were considered fashionable - you know, those 10 years ago, it was all about sprezzatura, italian style and Pitti Uomo. Pictures of the well-dressed southerners (and their multiple copycats) were all over tumblr, pinterest and various blogs. One of the common elements, which often appeared in these photos, was the soft, stylishly rumpled and well-fitting cotton suit.
Just how natural those suits looked, how comfortable they seemed and how effortless their pairing was - simply amazing. I wanted that too!

Then - still in my neophyte phase of #menswear interest - I also wanted to be the most Italian I could get, collecting seemingly necessary elements for such styling. However, before the budget allowed me to get interested in commissioning a good cotton suit, my interests shifted and the previous enthusiasm subsided. By the way, it's a pity I didn't get that far - unlike bracelets, extreme cutaway collars and too slim pants of those days, this suit - at least after some adjustments - would probably stay with me to this day.
With the evolution of taste, however, came interest not only in a different style, but also in different fabrics - I tested linen (perfect for the summer), got to know different types of wool (that's a range!), dreamed of cashmere, experimented with blends and simply forgot about cotton. It seemed too ordinary, too common and not enough specific - for me it didn't fit any season well, being neither wintery nor summery enough, thus lacking distinct character. Well, now I know how wrong I was.

This started to change when after a long time of looking at a photo mix of stylish Swedes, Koreans and Japanese, I began to approach Ivy League style, which then - how many times is that now? - was being re-interpreted again, with a significant help from non-American brands, showing it in a slightly more accessible, fun and colorful way. I let myself get into it because it was something attractive and easy to wear every day, less pretentious than many previous inspirations.
When I started thinking about how to dress in a new way, in many situations it turned out that I miss a suit made of sufficiently informal fabric, because paradoxically it would be both more comfortable and easier to put together, and seem less stuffy than a carefully assembled separates. That's how I went back to thinking about cotton - first a bit around, beginning with its seasonal variations, corduroy (in several colors, I got hooked easily!) for winter and seersucker for summer. Only after them came the time for the suit cut from ordinary, plain cotton - navy blue one to be precise.

I can smile to myself and say that I kinda paved the way for the off-the-rack model with my MTM order, giving it a test run - because although the fabric is not identical (only in similar shade and weight), it turned out that the rest of the details are almost one hundred percent match. Instead of opting for a slightly lowered gorge and open quarters - the default choice for my sports jackets - I opted for a more versatile, neutral style cut, no fuss.
I’ve picked up my commission sometime late spring - at least I remember that first outing happened when it was already pretty warm outside. It was fine then, but I felt that it does not wear as cool as linen would, so it didn’t really work out in the summer months - but when finally September came, it got a little cooler and YES, that was it!
As I already stated in the beginning of this article, it's the transitional seasons, both spring and autumn, when a cotton suit truly shines. It's one of those things that can keep you warm enough outside in 15-ish degrees Celsius outside and not make you overheat when going inside, being also comfortable enough to spontaneously jump out for a longer walk in the afternoon without a change and informal enough to spend the whole day around town, looking in place during both business meetings and an evening pint.
Personally, I wear it (almost) with everything - a t-shirt (when it's warm), a turtleneck (if extra warmth is needed) or a shirt (usually OCBD [LINK] - sometimes with a tie), paired with either sneakers (whether canvas trainers, my beloved Sambas or worn NBs), suede chukka or grain leather split-toes. The combination of navy blue color and informal cotton gives a lot of freedom and the ability to dress it your own way, depending on the needs of the day. I'm also not afraid to test it out in various situations - I wore it for business, made it last through the all-day fervor of the coffee festival, treated it as travel clothes and even put it on before cycling on the morning way to work, multiple times.
I can see that the guys from the Poszetka Wroclaw gave their suits a bit of a wintery pairing for the photos - I'm not surprised, experiencing the weather right now in Poland - and that's OK, too! That's what it's all about, just reach for the suit, look at the weather forecast, adjust the layers - it works.

When it comes to colors, there is no great philosophy here. What I am saying generally applies to both navy blue and brown, but also all the other colors in the subdued range that looks best on the cotton - various shades of beige, olive or pistachio all fall in this category. If your suit is in one of these colors, you have chosen the base well - I would like to emphasize that I do not recommend any intense and very dark shades for the cotton suit, it would just look bad. What would eventually look good in a given set depends on you and your style.

Want to wear a jacket separately because you don't feel like putting on your blazer today? Or maybe it's just at hand because you packed sparingly for a weekend trip? Here you go, feel free to do it. With the cotton jacket, it is another step down the formality ladder of the coordinated sets, a.k.a. the answer to the question of how to use the advantages of a jacket (pockets anyone?) in a comfortable and unpretentious way. Just look at the pictures - it works.

Does cotton rumple? Never mind, that's the point! This is also the charm of this suit - over time, the sleeves will become shaped like your arms, the fabric will soften, worn pocket edges will reveal your habits and brightened edges will add depth to the color. The more you wear your cotton suit, the more it will be yours and the more character it will habe.
Do not overdo it with care, cleaning and ironing. It's one of those things that looks best not when it's new, fresh, barely taken off the hanger, but when it's been worn many times, looks weathered and clearly someone's. It's not about putting it on from time to time, for special occasions, but wearing it every day, taking it everywhere and just living in it.
Well, at least from March to May and from September to November, that is!
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